Tag Archives: poetry

Poetry with Mr Death

For several years, the Piranha Poetry nights in Stroud were a key community space for me. I wrote a lot more poetry because there were people to read it to. It was a space that felt safe and welcoming, and that was reliably inclusive. I tend to show up in community spaces and fail to figure out how to be other than awkward and peripheral. But Piranha Poetry always felt like home. I’ve really missed it.

Organiser Gary Death had one of those large birthdays this year, so back before lockdown I wrote him a poem, because I thought it would be funny to jam on the ee cummings line about Mr Death. And then I lost the poem.  By happy accident, I found the hand written first draft at the weekend.

 

Happy birthday Mr Death (belatedly)

 

And what I want to know is, how do you like your blue eyed boy, Mr Death?

ee cummings man, his very how pants of the outside of his

Many bells trousers leaps to the microphone.

In the audience, three former students of English literature

Faint at the very sight of him.

No one who has ever tried to answer that question has survived

Unscathed.

But Mr Death is ready, like he’s been waiting his whole life

For ee cummings man, poetic anti-super-hero in a war against

Capital letters, to storm his stage and enquire about blue eyed boys.

Mr Death is ready.

Turns.

Lowers his trousers.

Moons.

This is his superpower and in the glowing radiance of his posterior,

Literature’s caped crusader has nothing more to say.

One elderly member of the audience has a nosebleed.

Seven will later require counselling.

Three will be haunted by erotic dreams.

Mr Death pulls up his trousers

And invites another floor spot poet

To take their chances.

He likes his blue eyed boys like he likes his piranhas

Allegedly.


A very hobbit birthday

Dear readers, it is my birthday today and I thought I would take a hobbit approach to that – namely by offering gifts to everyone else!

I have a new poetry collection called How to Unpeel A Monster.

The cover is based on a photo of me and a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Tom Brown drew me a version of it, and I coloured it using oil pastels. For the photo, I had a small skull duct-taped to my nipple – don’t try this at home! But it pretty well sums up the project – a bit dark, a bit twisted, a bit painful, somewhat preposterous and also quite funny in places.

If you would like a copy, leave a comment – wordpress shows me your email address when you comment, so I can easily email you a pdf. I’ll start sending them out on the 15th of June.

 


Reclaiming Power – a poem

Let my power be

What grace I have,

The sway of my hips

A bolder spine

Defiant chin.

Available as I choose

Open arms

Open thighs

The power to say no

Is the power to say yes

With all my heart.

 

I claim the power to trust

That I will be honoured

My power not misread

As power over or excuse

No patriarchal Goddess

Of Justification, no deity

Of rape culture made to bear

The shame and guilt

Of violent transgression

I refuse this story, this history.

 

My power is in the gifting

Power to share and express

When that essential energy

Meets your generous power

When we are mighty together

For each other

None diminished.

 

Enchant me, seduce me, delight me.

You have no power over me

Except as I freely submit.

Gasp for me, yearn for me

Fall at my feet if you

Would give such power to me

And see your own strength

In the beauty of all

You give away.

 

Let my power flow in my hips

Open arms, open thighs

The willing, triumphant surrender

When it is safe to choose

Powerlessness

Safe to choose

Power.


Toward Beltane

A guest blog from Ing Venning

 

Toward Beltane

 

 

When presented with beige folding,

when gifted with pale pinkness,

do you argue that white

is the take-charge pigment

or that red has always been

the more supportive hue?

 

Can you accept

my pistil and my stamen

or are you merely a boy,

simply a girl,

never a budding flower

bright with the sunny joy

of scented days and secret nights?

 

Perfection is the flaw

that defilement approaches.

 

Will you ask only one

or two questions

before taking your leave?

Or will you open at the south

and beg a third?

 

Ing Venning is the outsider author of the Wheel of the Year saga (a fantasy series featuring pagan, LGBTQIA+, and non-capitalist characters), Sources (a collection of retellings), and, most recently, a poetry collection called Lexical Numerals (of which “Toward Beltane” is part). Ing is working hard to get off disability and raise himself up to the poverty line in uncertain times. Want to try a sampler of his work or his first novel for free? Visit https://ingvenning.com/


We have to be good

Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese has been on my mind a lot of late. If you aren’t familiar with it, you can read it here – http://www.phys.unm.edu/~tw/fas/yits/archive/oliver_wildgeese.html

 

We have to be good

 

Mary Oliver was wrong

And it breaks my heart to say so.

We do have to be good.

This year demands that we

Each, alone and whimpering walk

The hundred miles upon our knees

Take the impossible, body breaking

Journey without the solace of so much

We held dear – there can be

No holding. Our soft animal bodies

Are so fragile, and those we love

So vulnerable and a hundred miles

Of knee shredding repenting will not

Save us, necessarily. Will not

Save the ones we love most.

What would you tell me of despair

Today, Mary? What would your

World loving words reveal as we

Shuffle fearful, onwards, praying

But not daring to hope.

And all the while, the wild places

Are forbidden to us and we

Must not let our soft animal bodies

Love too closely and the hundred miles

Is so far, so hard, it seems

Unthinkable to cross the distance

In the way we must.

Carry what you can, be it grief

Or fear, the names of those lost

The bitterness and anger for this waste

Of life, for these months we shall

Never have again, for the dreams

Left bloody in the wake of our crawling

For all that is gone, will never be.

Carry what you can.

Weep when you must, but do this

Terrible thing, too far beyond my reach

For comfort, knowing our bodies lack

For innocence, that we may yet be

The death of each other.

A hundred miles on your knees, repenting

There is a far side to this torment

And I believe, with all my aching heart

That some of you will reach this place

Of respite and healing.

If I do not meet you there

Remember me fondly, remember the best of me

And forgive what you can of the rest.

If I can crawl to the far side of this

I will bring you my open arms

I will soak your cheek, your shoulder

With the glad excess of my tears.

Hold fast as thought I never mean

To let go again. Kiss, if you

Will permit it, love with whatever

Raw remnants of self I have.

When we do not have to be good,

I hope to find you.

 

(This originally went out on my Patreon account, should you feel so moved https://www.patreon.com/NimueB )

 


Libation, a review

Libation is a beautiful collection by Earl Livings – mostly poetry and some poetic prose. The writing conveys a sensual experience of the physical world that I think any Pagan or Druid could connect with. As someone who is not very good at belief, I found the way this book mixes the spiritual and the rational really powerful.

This isn’t a big review because I’m struggling at the moment. It is a book that deserves a much deeper contemplation of its many merits. It was gifted to me by the author with no expectation of a review, and came in on what had been a desperately bad day. Reading it gave me respite during a week that remained really difficult, and I am profoundly grateful.

More information here – https://www.ginninderrapress.com.au/store.php?product/page/1792/%2A+Earl+Livings+%2F+Libation

Available as an ebook https://www.amazon.com/Libation-Earl-Livings/dp/1760416150 

 


Stroud Poets: Rick Vick – a review

Yew Tree Press is a Stroud publisher putting out small poetry booklets featuring local poets. Often these take poets in sets of three, but Rick Vick has a collection to himself. His recent death is no doubt the main reason for this.

I first came into contact with Rick Vick through the Stroud Short Stories competition. Rick was a frequent participant and I edited his work for the first Stroud Short Stories anthology. I can’t say I ever knew him well, but he was someone who would acknowledge me in the street. He was clearly an interesting chap who had lived fully and with passion and who thought about things a lot. It came through in both his prose and his poetry.

The poems in this collection are all short, intense pieces. I really like the clear, everyday language – I don’t enjoy poetry that you have to figure out like some kind of cryptic puzzle. Rick Vick demonstrates beautifully that simple language has immense poetic power. He has a knack for picking out details that evoke, and suggest. The work is often emotional, poignant without falling into sentimentality. It’s rich with observation and understanding and a great deal is communicated in a very small space. These poems are human, accessible and well worth your time.

Find out more on the website – https://www.yewtreepress.co.uk/


Messing with Sonnets

There is an elegance to the sonnet form that has always appealed to me. However, the origin of the sonnet has other things going on besides the structure and rhyme on the page. The Petrarchan sonnet is about the unobtainable, idealised beloved. It’s something Shakespeare both works with and pushes back against. It’s very much part of the poetic tradition of man as poet and woman as muse – something that has long frustrated me about older writing, and that drove me round the bend with Graves’ The White Goddess.

Most of us first encounter sonnet form through Shakespeare, and I think there’s a pull to that kind of language while writing sonnets. Part of the way through writing the one below, it struck me that I really want to work with the kind of language that seems out of place in a poem of this shape. I’ll be exploring that in the future.

I’ve already got a bit of a thing going around deliberately unromantic poetry, and this is certainly one of those…

 

A Challenge

Give me the lust that dares to speak its name

Bring me the joy of confident desire

The longing that refuses to know shame

The lips that gasp, the skin that seems on fire.

I have no time for guilt or reluctance

If wanting proves submissive unto fear

There’s more to this than getting in your pants,

Informed consent is something I hold dear.

Seduction holds no temptation for me

I shall not be your reason for betrayal

A willing gift of self would be the key

To love on other terms would be to fail.

I am not here to bring about your fall,

Come willingly, or do not come at all.


Druidry and Poetry

We tend to think of poetry as a ‘Druid thing’ because of its association with historical bards, and the way in which modern Druidry holds the bard path within it. There’s a lot we don’t know about historical bards and how that related to Druidry, and that’s an issue for another time, perhaps. What I find much more interesting is the way in which a modern Druid can use poetry.

Poetry impacts on the brain in a different way from prose writing. It’s more like how we respond to music. The science is out there if you hit the search engines. What it means for a Druid is that poetry gets in differently. It is a better vehicle sometimes for arousing empathy and engaging people’s emotions. It can get you passed another person’s blocks and defences to touch them in ways they might have resisted had you come in with regular speech or prose.

And if that’s not magic, I don’t know what is!

It raises some interesting questions about the way rhyming verses so often feature in spells. What are we doing to ourselves when we do that? Is that act of making an intention into a verse impacting on our brains in some way? I suspect so, but to the best of my knowledge no one is studying the science of poetry in spells as yet.

Poetry can be a lot easier to remember than regular text. If there are rhymes and rhythms, they prompt us to recall them more readily. There are things about sound and rhythm here that speak to us in deeper ways than the words themselves. There’s something powerful and impressive about recalling from memory, and that poetry can make this easier doesn’t diminish the impact at all. A poem quoted from memory seems more powerful to me than a segment of script or a book quote.

Despite all the research, our brains remain wondrous, mysterious things whose functioning we have barely begun to explore. Poetry seems to be as ancient as civilizations, suggesting that our ancestors knew that approaching language in this way has power. It’s a way of stepping out of regular conversation and exchange and into some other realm of heightened sensibility and sensitivity. We may be taken outside of ourselves, or more fully into ourselves. We may be transformed through metaphor and allusion to other lives, forms, ways of seeing and being.

To read, write or speak poetry is to perform magic on ourselves.


Performance magic

Sometimes, when you take a piece out and perform it, it does not go as planned. Sometimes, there is magic in the moment and the whole nature of the piece and your relationship with it can change. I’m not talking here about things that go wrong, or things that come up when you are under-prepared, but the way in which a space, an audience or an atmosphere can radically change a piece.

When you learn and practice a piece – be that a song, story, tune or poem – you’ll bring certain emotional tones to it. Much of what you bring will be about your feelings for the piece itself and what it evokes in you. Context can shift that – the mood of an audience, the impact of the performance space and so forth. I’ve done a little bit of singing in churches and those are massively unpredictable spaces for me, and I’m never sure how that kind of setting will shift how I perform.

The acoustics of a place can have considerable impact on performance. The differences between singing in a cave, and in a windy field are enormous. Some places invite you to slow down, to linger, while others encourage livelier performances. Some places you can use your voice quietly and still be heard. Some performance spaces can only be shouted into. This can mean you are working against the vibe of your piece, but sometimes it’s a magical shift that brings the material alive in new ways.

Sometimes it’s all about the audience. It’s effective to dig in with whatever suits the collective mood. Some audiences don’t respond well to certain tones and feelings. The feminist fury that gets you a ‘hell yes’ in one place may fall in awkward silence in another. Some audiences respond well to bawdy humour, others less so. The presence of a child in a room can encourage you to skip hastily over some kinds of detail.

One of my best audience moments was in a poem where I made a joke about bestiality, and the one dog in the room picked that moment to emit one loud bark!

I find it’s best not to fight these things. Going with what happens in a space, in a moment, with an audience gets powerful results, while fighting it seldom works.